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The Afternoon of March 30 ~ by Nathaniel Blumberg 



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THE AFTERNOON 

OF 

MARCH 30 



A CONTEMPORARY HISTORICAL 
NOVEL 



NATHANIEL BLUMBERG 



WHAT READERS SAY 

In a fast-paced fictionalized 
account of a journalist's search for 
truth, The Afternoon of March 30 
reveals a view of American politics 
that is as illuminating as it is 
frightening. Focusing on the events 
surrounding John Hinckley Jr.'s 
attempt to assassinate President 
Reagan, this well-researched book 
describes how government 
agencies shut off access to any 
information suggesting a 
conspiracy at high levels while 
feeding misinformation to the 
media. 

Nathaniel Blumberg convincingly 
demonstrates that this one incident 
epitomizes how our government 
serves the mighty and uses the 
trumped-up excuse of national 
security to trample our freedoms. 
Truth rings in every documented 
observation. To read The Afternoon 
of March 30 is to understand the 
powerful forces controlling if not 
destroying our country. 

— Ralph W. McGehee, 

author of Deadly Deceits: 

My 25 Years In the CIA 

Blumberg takes life very 
seriously, but he also gets a 
monumental charge out of living it, 
contemplating it and commenting 
on it. His salty observations about 



TO ORDER A SIGNED COPY: 

This original First Edition book is hardbound, 377 pages, 

published in 1984 and still sold at its 1984 price 

plus postage and handling. 

Send check or money order 
for $21 for each copy to: 

WoodFIREAshes Press 

Box 99 

Big Fork, MT 59911 

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THE AFTERNOON OF MARCH 30, is the story of a Montana 
newspaperman who is at first puzzled, then curious, then finally 
outraged by what the national news media never told the American 
people about the attempt of John W. Hinckley Jr. to assassinate the 
president of the United States. 

It is a real-life mystery story, a detective story, a newspaper story, a 
spy story and more than one love story. It is a polemic that explores 
the strange "coincidences," curious "happenstances," major 
discrepancies, critical omissions and possible covert disinformation 
activities in the wake of a bullet that came within an inch of changing 
the course of history. It is a story of a journalist's fierce devotion to the 
American ideals of freedom and justice. It is a different kind of roman 
a clef. 

Even more dangerous for the future of our country than a 
conspiracy to assassinate a president is a conspiracy to manipulate 
and control what the American people are told by the national news 
media. This book — among much else — examines the official cover-up 
of vital information that left scores of unanswered questions 
surrounding the event of the afternoon of March 30, 1 981 . From the 
book, page 6: 

When it happened it was beyond the grotesque. For 
seconds Jonathan Blakely was stunned. John 
Chancellor, eyebrows raised, informed the viewers of 
NBC Nightly News that the brother of the man who tried 
to kill the president was acquainted with the son of the 
man who would have become president if the attack had 
been successful. As a matter of fact, Chancellor said in a 
bewildered tone, Scott Hinckley and Neil Bush had been 
scheduled to have dinner together at the home of the 
vice president's son the very next night. And, of course, 
the engagement had been canceled. . . 

Then a peculiar thing happened: The story vanished. To this day, it 
has never been reported in the New York Times, Washington Post 
or many other metropolitan newspapers, never again mentioned by 
any of the television news networks, and never noted in news 
magazines except for a brief mention in Newsweek, which lumped it 
with two ludicrous conspiracy scenarios as if the Bush-Hinckley 
connection didn't deserve some sort of explanation. [See Newsweek 



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practically everything — people, 
government, business, sports, 
politics, money, marriage, 
American culture and society in 
general — are here for the taking or 
leaving. 

One reviewer has accused 
Blumberg of writing bad prose as 
he explores the national and local 
press through his chosen vehicle, 
the March 30, 1981, assassination 
attempt on President Ronald 
Reagan. Lapses, maybe, but The 
Afternoon of March 30 is chockful 
of nuggets that will cause many 
readers to feel the gut-wrenchings 
of the characters and 
simultaneously see themselves and 
their frustrations. 

There's both wheat and chaff in 
this book, but Blumberg has done 
sufficient winnowing to produce a 
bumper crop of the former. 

Amateur press critics who seek 
to sharpen their skills would do 
well to give The Afternoon of March 
30 a whirl. 

— Steve Smith 
in the Missoulian 



The Afternoon of March 30, "a 
contemporary historical novel," is 
on one level about the attempted 
assassination of President Reagan 
by John W. Hinckley, Jr. On 
another level, this very complex 
book is about the American press 
and Blumberg's vision of what the 
American press should be. The 
core of the book is here. Blumberg 
has written, in the form of a novel, 
a polemic on the present state of 
the press. The novel form works 
well here. Rapidly paced, it says a 
lot about the press while using, 
most expertly, the facets of the 
novel — fine dialogue, character 
development, deep tension, action 
and sexual intimacy. 

I am not going to describe this 
provocative and disturbing book by 
the usual forms of compression. 
Read it free of preformed opinions. 
It's not dull. It goes like wildfire. In 
many ways it is remarkable. The 
Hinckley case is the vehicle; the 
press, its role and its suppression 



SIDEBAR below] 

But many other significant facts concerning the Bush and Hinckley 
families have remained unexplored and unexplained, in addition to 
other matters related to the assassination attempt detailed in this 
book. For examples: 

• Neil Bush, a landman for Amoco Oil, told Denver reporters he 
had met Scott Hinckley at a surprise party at the Bush home 
January 23, 1981, which was approximately three weeks after 
the U.S. Department of Energy had begun what was termed a 
"routine audit" of the books of the Vanderbilt Energy 
Corporation, the Hinckley oil company. In an incredible 
coincidence, on the morning of March 30, three representatives 
of the U.S. Department of Energy told Scott Hinckley, 
Vanderbilt's vice president of operations, that auditors had 
uncovered evidence of pricing violations on crude oil sold by 
the company from 1977 through 1980. The auditors announced 
that the federal government was considering a penalty of two 
million dollars. Scott Hinckley reportedly requested "several 
hours to come up with an explanation" of the serious 
overcharges. The meeting ended a little more than an hour 
before John Hinckly Jr. shot President Reagan. 

• Although John Hinckley Sr. was characterized repeatedly by 
the national news media as "a strong supporter of President 
Reagan," no record has been found of contributions to Reagan. 
To the contrary, in addition to money given to Bush, a fellow 
Texas oilman, as far back as 1970, the senior Hinckley raised 
funds for Bush's unsuccessful campaign to wrest the 
nomination from Reagan. Furthermore, he and Scott Hinckley 
separately contributed to John Connally in late 1979 when 
Connally was leading the campaign to stop Reagan from 
gaining the 1980 presidential nomination. The Bush and 
Hinckley families, according to one newspaper, "maintained 
social ties." The deeply troubled Hinckley oil company 
obviously would fare better under a Bush presidency than it 
would under President Reagan. 

• Available evidence at the time made clear many other 
connections between the Bush and Hinckley families. Reported 
"coincidences" involving the Hinckleys and the family of H.L. 
Hunt also remained unexplored. Instead, the official 
government line, accepted without challenge by the media, was 
that the assassination attempt was nothing more than the 
senseless act of a deranged drifter who "did it to impress Jodie 
Foster." That enshrined historical "truth" is thoroughly examined 
in this book. 

• To understand how that came to pass, it is essential to examine 
the travesty of the trial of John W. Hinckley, presided over by 
Judge Barrington D. Parker. 

NOTE: In May 2001, Barrington D. Parker was one of the 
first eleven nominees for appointment to federal appeals 
courts by President George W. Bush. 

Parker, a Republican appointed to the federal bench by 
President Richard Nixon, was a man with an established 



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are at issue. 



— Harrison Lane 
in Montana Magazine 



His friends (I am privileged to be 
among them) have watched with 
intrigue and, at times, 
astonishment as Blumberg — 
meticulous journalist, riveting 
lecturer, demanding media critic 
and admired university professor — 
pieced together what he calls the 
"strange coincidences" 
surrounding the assassination 
attempt. 

There is much more to the 
Hinckley assassination story: the 
confinement of Hinckley in a prison 
designed for behavior modification, 
the sealing from the public of 
Hinckley's prison writings in which 
he says he was part of a 
conspiracy, the inexcusable delay 
in the trial (nearly 13 months after 
the assassination attempt), the 
insanity of the trial itself, the 
judge's ruling that sealed evidence 
obtained after Hinckley's arrest 
couldn't be presented (the evidence 
remains hidden from the public to 
this day). 

Blumberg's book cries out for 
answers to the haunting questions 
it has raised. 

— Rick Seifert in the Longview 
(Washington) Daily News 



reputation for politically partisan decisions and notable 
reversals on appeal. For one of many examples, when Edwin 
Reinecke, then the lieutenant governor of California under 
Governor Reagan, was convicted of lying to the Senate 
Judiciary Committee, Judge Parker could have imposed a five- 
year jail sentence and a $2,000 fine, but chose to give 
Reinecke an 18-month suspended sentence and one month of 
unsupervised probation. More importantly, not for nothing did 
Parker achieve notoriety as "the CIA's judge." Orlando Letelier, 
an influential opponent of the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile, 
was assassinated in 1976 in broad daylight on a street in our 
national capital. The judge at the trial was Barrington Parker. 
The Director of Central Intelligence was George Bush, father of 
George W. Bush. Judge Parker refused to allow the defense to 
present any testimony concerning the widely suspected 
involvement of the CIA. Parker came through again in 1 977 
when a former director of the CIA, Richard Helms, pleaded no 
contest to two charges of lying to the Senate Foreign Relations 
Committee when he testified that the CIA had not covertly 
supplied money to opponents of Salvadore Allende in a secret 
effort to block his election as president of Chile. Judge Parker, 
before passing sentence, told Helms that "if public officials 
embark deliberately on a course to disobey and ignore the laws 
of our land because of some misguided and ill- conceived 
notion and belief that there are earlier commitments and 
considerations which they must first observe, the future of this 
country is in jeopardy." Judge Parker then chose to jeopardize 
the future of this country by giving Helms a suspended two-year 
sentence and a $2,000 fine. 

• Shortly before this decision, the lawyer for Helms, Edward 
Bennett Williams, pleaded with Judge Parker for a lenient 
sentence for his client because Helms "would bear the scar of 
conviction for the rest of his life." After Parker accommodated 
him, Williams told reporters outside the courtroom that Helms 
would "wear this conviction like a badge of honor." That night 
more than 400 former and perhaps current CIA employees 
gathered at a country club outside Washington, gave Helms a 
standing ovation, put two wastebaskets atop a piano and 
quickly contributed more than enough to pay his fine. On that 
night of November 4, 1 977, a faction within the Central 
Intelligence Agency openly declared war on the elected and 
legitimate government of the United States. 



Blumberg has made a career out 
of analyzing the media, and has 
often been less than delighted with 
what he has found. But coverage of 
the Reagan assassination attempt 
seemed to him to represent a new 
low. His careful survey of the news 
coverage pays off, with readers 
being treated to a rare inside look 
at the national media. 

— Michael Crater in the Helena 
(Montana) Independent Record 



• And how did Barrington Parker become the judge for Hinckley's 
trial? "In another sharp diversion from regular courthouse 
procedure," as the Washington Post flatly reported, Parker's 
name was secretly selected from a stack of cards that bore the 
names of 14 federal judges who were available. "That selection 
process normally is carried out by a court clerk," the Post 
continued, but this time the selection was made in the private 
chambers of the senior judge. Thus was the presiding judge of 
the Hinckley trial selected in a Star Chamber session, leading 
to a national outcry at the decision, summed up by what one 
editorial writer called "one of the worst miscarriages of justice in 
the nation's history." 

• The shooting on the afternoon of March 30 was voted the "top 
headline story of 1981" by newspaper and broadcast editors. It 
is always listed as one of the biggest stories of the decade. As 



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Though more serious in tone, The 
Afternoon of March 30 holds the 
reader's interest as a Robert 
Ludlum or Ken Follett thriller 
would. 

— Les Gapay in the San Jose 
(California) Mercury News 



The Afternoon of March 30 has a 
new chance at a spotlight now that 
W is in the White House. It was 
serendipity that I found it; I 
happened to be browsing in 
Powell's one evening and there it 
was. I'd missed it the first time. 
Read the whole thing in a couple 
sittings. Disturbing. Stunning. 

— Dean Baker, reporter, Vancouver, 

Washington, Columbian, in a note 

to the author in 2001 



You have written a pretty bad 
novel but a damn forceful and 
persuasive book. Some of your 
positions strike me as extreme, but 
the general thrust of your work is 
right and convincing. 

— A.B. (Bud) Guthrie, Jr., Winner of 

the 1950 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, 

in a note to the author in 1984 



I have read The Afternoon of 
March 30 with fascination. I really 
could not put it down, once I had 
started. 

If you ever come to London — 
and why should you, if you live in 
Montana, which I understand from 
friends of mine is one of the special 
places — then do let me know. 

— Doris Lessing, winner of both 

the 2001 David Cohen British 

Literature Prize and Spain's 

Asturias Prize for Literature — and 

still denied the richly deserved 

Nobel Prize for Literature — in a 

note to the author in 1984. 



such, readers of this book will discover scores of facts never 
reported or underplayed in the national news 
media. Remember, this book was published in large part as a 
warning of the dangers posed by the Bush family which, if 
nothing else, was prophetic. 



SIDEBAR: Excerpts from an interview by Theresa Walla, 
in United Press International article, March 9, 1985 

Journalism professor Nathaniel Blumberg was so disturbed about 
the investigation into the attempted assassination of President 
Reagan that he turned his suspicions into a 377-page novel. 

In The Afternoon of March 30, Blumberg blends fact and fiction in 
looking at the unreported "connections" between Hinckley's family and 
that of Vice President George Bush, the man who came within a 
heartbeat of the presidency of the United States. 

"What I'm really after is the case to be officially reopened," said the 
Rhodes scholar and former dean of the University of Montana 
journalism school. "If they can answer all the questions satisfactorily, 
I'll be delighted," he said in an interview. "In truth, I don't think all the 
questions can be answered without opening up a whole new can of 
worms." 

Blumberg's unease is now focused on the indifference shown to 
what he calls "the story behind the story." Bush, he said, has 
questions to answer in connection with the attempt. So do the FBI and 
the judge who presided over Hinckley's trial, according to Blumberg. 

"I'm not saying there was a conspiracy to assassinate Reagan," 
Blumberg emphasized. "I'm saying there was a conspiracy to keep 
significant information from the public that it has a right to know." 

Blumberg asks his readers to consider his contentions that 
journalists were fed a barely believable story full of inconsistencies. A 
long-time media critic, he decided the example warranted more than a 
critique of press performance in a crisis. Such efforts, he said, usually 
"go out there and die." Instead, he chose to weave his questions into a 
novel so it would reach a broader audience and allow him to probe 
problems in society and corruption in government, as well as maladies 
of the U.S. press. 

The book chronicles the adventures of a fictitious Montana 
newsman who follows the information trail deserted by the national 
media. His documentation is put in the form of an article the fictitious 
hero is writing. 

Blumberg published the book on his own Wood FIRE Ashes Press 
to retain total control over the quality. 

"Have you ever heard an author say what a great job his publisher 
did with a book?" he asks. But, without a commercial advertising 
campaign, he's had to market the book in an "organic, straightforward 
fashion." 

Blumberg says he mails out several copies of the novel each week 
and expects it to "stay alive as long as people continue to care about 
justice." 



Analysis: Note that Reporter Walla, a former student of mine, was 
encouraged by Helena UPl to interview me for this story. She wrote a 
short article that was sent to the Seattle UPl Bureau, which promptly 
asked for a longer, more detailed piece. The expanded article was 
sent by the Seattle Bureau to national UPl, where it was killed. 



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SIDEBAR: Newsweek, April 13, 1981, Page 59 



For Conspiracy Buffs Only 

In alt [lie reCenl hirfrtry i>f a.su..h.Mna1]om and j^vlmhuUiou 
attempt* in America, none seemed more eleirly the work <»f 
one man w irh one £un and no rsiituniLE motive I ban tasi ucck'k 
audio- and %ideo-iaped atla^k <m Konald Kcaftim- Hut Kbit 
%hiM>[in^ 4 like the mber* before it. churned up Ihe UMWdl wake 
u | 1 1 1 i mia I ic*i . dihK repanciesaHd eoi ftCEdcncc* t hal al lend chaotic 
events in the real world— and so provided the usual gri*t for 
yet ifciuighff Generation of conspiracy theorists to chew over 
far years lo come. "Hie bfciek cornier and ronipmiiEHinlbit Dick 
Gregory scuoped Ihe pack [hit lime, assuring * Los Angeles 
udk^how hoM that the CI A And I he FBI did ii— and ex- 
perienced riudejitt of the literature of awssirulkiiri could al- 
mrwi *ee i hundred similar theories blooming out of whal 
seemed so fallow o patch of ground, 

Among l he pkwsihiUtio: 
■ The iliTwkky-Dcdn'i-Do-rt-OF'fl^Leaitf'Nol- Alone Theory. 
The iei> videotape** that make *uch u seemingly open-and- 
thui ca*c ajjaanM John W. Hinckley Jr. never actually show 
hisiFiec until after his capture A* ti happened, he was MjnJm^ 
back in a dicier of newsmen, behind I he cameras, until he 
parted ihonlin^ Etui .1 du-d^-iuyi k -..ui^iii,Lo I mil mi^hi ■■ L -u.. 
thai he was (\\ an bumcnl; fall guy or (2) only sine gun uEuung 
1WO OF more Argument (2) oucfs [he mtwe tempting fodder 
for the coti^pmrioiiahit: ojie of 1 wo pnornfilou* fiashc* of lighi 



1 Kk e Ik 1 ape, a suspended moment in whicb members of Reagan's 
security force look Ihe wrong way for Ihe iourod of I he shots 
and the scrambled First repw 1> from an embarrassed Secret 
Service misstating I he make and en fiber of Ihe pislol imolvcd 
a perfect invitation to a two-gun Hcenario, 

■ Tlse Nf ay be* Hi tickky ■ Did ■ 1 1 ■ but - 1 he -Gove rnmciit ■ Helped 
Theory. The hr^t <jucMn>n a compiraionah^E tntghl aak H 
how an ca^Na^i once arretted on a cun charge in Nanhvi I It- 
Ten n. h cm a day when Jnnrrty i a net w:k in Imwn con Id escape 
being punch -carded mlo ihe Secret ScniceN com puled red 
EasE o3" potential awivsim. There were real security lapses ill 
ihe scene as weH— the ease wiih which Hinckley slipped biro 
ihe press pack, for c&amplc* and ihe clay-pigeon distance. 
Reagan bad lo walk la bis car when it could have been 
pitrked closer EO (be hold c.mC. The CYkttlKt rn each 1 nuance 
point** IO fa rdcSMic**.. but thefe ate fio nm, lakes in conspiracy 
theories — only cak-ulaFed acJv. 

■ The dlcttheii'Lc-Vvrp "Theory Wiih Myiter) Woman uud 
TrilaleraE Corollary. For ihe fail hesi-out pint -spun vrv ii will 
not pass notice thai i t) Georfte Bulb iidd reswrd the Trilateral 
Commission ihe Suriduy nij^ht befi'ire ibe shoomig. lliat 1 2) 
Hinckley's bioiher. Sct*ll P h:iii a dinner date with Hull's *ou 
Neil thai Monday and I hut (a) llieie were vrveral plume callh 
from an unidentiljed wonun In ISiJKklev r h hotel n>oin Ilia I 
day <thc 1 ; RJ ^4iiil she was trying lo eatl wrneane else). Any 
*L|jiHfieimee in these occurrence* can he left (a the imapnaEhm P 
and probably will be. 



Note that the only significant item — the fact that the brother of the assassin is a close friend of the son of the new 
president of the United States if the bullet had been half an inch closer to the heart of Ronald Reagan — is buried 
at the end of a long list of ludicrous conspiracy theories. It is masterfully further buried between two other 
ridiculous items. 



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